Sunday, June 29, 2008

Communion

I'm re-reading David Mamet's Three Uses of the Knife. Mamet is perhaps my favorite curmudgeon. He's like a grumpy, older male relative who's seen it all, and doesn't understand "them kids today." Except he really does understand them, he just doesn't understand why mankind persists in making the same damn mistakes over and over.

So please forgive the sweeping generalities and curmudgeon-like words below, or at least take them with a grain of salt. These thoughts occurred to me as I read, and I would like to share them with you:
When you come into the theatre, you have to be willing to say, "We're all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world." If you're not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that.
- David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife
From its Latin root, communion is essentially "a sharing." Removed from any specific religious sense, communion is a form of intimate communication.

The definition with which I am most familiar is the Christian meaning, the eucharist, the sacramental consuming of bread and wine as originated by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. The tradition I grew up in did not believe in transubstantiation, the actual transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but I do know of of it, albeit from Protestant publications highly critical of the belief.

There is something inherently holy about communion, whether we're talking unleavened wafers and wine, or a completely honest exchange between human beings. We live in increasingly unholy times, it seems. What passes for intimate conversation is oftentimes self-centered exhibitionism: "I'm manic-depressive," "Let me tell you what an asshole by boyfriend is." There never seems to be an attempt to dig any deeper into these surface issues, to discover some personal truth that may improve our conditions, or at the very least satisfy our need for some ounce of understanding about them.

Instead we are satisfied to dress ourselves in our problems, put on our neurosis and phobias as if they're jewelry. These "intimacies" are in fact plumage put on display for all the world to see. Yet, I wonder how satisfying this exercise truly is?

Theatre at its most potent is a laying bare of the psyche. It's a means of taking situations, thoughts, and feelings familiar to all, placing them on a dissection tray, and opening up the experience of life for an audience to see and ponder on. So the theatre is a kind of life laboratory. If slapstick depends upon the quality of "safety" to elicit belly laughs, so too does drama depend upon the safety of knowing it's all just a game. The players are merely artists, and we in the darkened house are not witnessing acts that possess any true, lasting effect on the characters involved.

It is in this laboratory and safe zone that theatrical communion can occur.

Any seasoned audience member or actor, any veteran of the stage will tell you there are times when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, moments when the electricity is in the air, and a sort of psychological transubstantiation occurs. Joe Actor as Hamlet becomes Hamlet, if only for a few lines. A sharing occurs, and intimate communication is had.

It seems funny to me that true intimacy can occur between strangers in a public milieu, yet it escapes us among the closest of friends.

Friday, June 20, 2008

WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE SAID
An Anthology of One Acts for L.A.
My new theatre company is currently presenting an evening of one acts, and I'm involved in two of the plays:

* At the Threshold, which I directed, is an incredible short work by Phillip Kelly. It deals with something I'm all too familiar with, the unstoppable crash of adulthood into an otherwise happy-go-lucky, young adult life. It's a quarter-life-crisis story that's not soppy or self-indulgent. Nor is it too heavy. I'm a big fan of this play, and I literally jumped at the chance to direct it. My cast is just incredible. Jacob Smith, Darci Dixon, Gregory Crafts, Lisa K. Wyatt, Katie Sikema, and Jenn Scuderi bring this work to the stage.

* Three Small People in Very Big Shoes, which I wrote, is a satirical look at backstage life at Disneyland. It's a sex farce expertly helmed by director Jim Blanchette and brought to life by Jacob Smith, Vanessa Hurd and Ana Therese Lopez.

And here's a deal readers of this blog just can't beat: Mention my name at the box office (or when reserving your tickets on our reservation line) and you'll get half off the price of admission this Saturday and Sunday! Holy smokes, that's a good deal!

I'm really proud of the work we've done, and I want to share it with as many people as possible. Because what's the point of doing this stuff if I don't get to share it?

Details: June 12 - 29 , Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm At THE COMPLEX in Hollywood, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets: Normally $20, half price this Saturday and Sunday if you mention my name (Andrew) To reserve your seats: (818) 849-4039

And after you see the show, come back here and tell me what you thought!

Here's what Pat Taylor at The Tolucan Times and Canyon Crier thought:
"A 'cutting edge' fearless and talented bunch who 'tell it like it is,' just opened this series of gritty, thought-provoking scenes, exploring the complexities of desire, ambitions, regrets, self-identity, love lost, and the delicately diverse art of communication."

"This is an e-ticket ride into the dark and vulnerable psyche of human nature ..."


Friday, June 13, 2008

What We Should Have Said

An Anthology of One Acts for L.A.



Ticketing information available here. (NOTE: If you purchase tickets through Brown Paper Tickets, type in the passcode "Spike" for savings of $5 off the price of each ticket!)

As the title suggests, this evening of one acts is concerned with communication. From the Artistic Director's statement:

Whether it's abundant or lacking, communication is at the heart of dealing with everything from personal issues to world affairs. Regret, ego, anxiety, denial, love, ambition -- these are all intagibles that affect our need and desire to communicate who we are and what we want.
I wrote one of the pieces and I directed another. I hope to see you there!